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China's College-Exam Graders Suspected of Taking Bribes to Inflate Scores

Taking an entrance exam in Guiyang, China

Photograph by Imaginechina/AP Photo

Taking an entrance exam in Guiyang, China

In theory, China’s standardized college-entrance examination, the gaokao, serves to level the playing field, rewarding only academic aptitude and giving rich and poor an equal opportunity to further their education. In reality, there are many ways to game the system.

Take, for example, a gaokao-scoring scandal now under investigation in northern Liaoning province. Exam-graders are allowed to award extra-credit points to national-level student athletes and promising young scientists. These points, apparently, are sometimes for sale.

Liaoning authorities are gathering details about a cheating ring in which local exam administrators invited parents of test-takers to pay sums ranging from 40,000 yuan ($6,480) to 80,000 yuan to inflate their son’s or daughter’s exam scores with extra points intended for athletes.

So far, at least 74 students have admitted to cheating under this scheme, according to a report published in the Henan Business News.

It’s not just the graders who try to manipulate the points system. In 2010, several participants in the Xiamen marathon were busted for gaming race times by hiring faster runners to carry the microchips that record their times across the finish line. An investigation revealed that many of the cheaters were students from Shandong province hoping to qualify for extra-credit athletic points to boost their gaokao scores.

Larson is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

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